City Councilman Eric Gioia, took it upon himself to eat only what he could afford for $28, the equivalent of a week's worth of food stamps. He followed in the foosteps of Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, who only allotted himself $21 (the Oregonian food stamp equivalent) for the week. According to the New Yorker, Councilman Gioia conducted the challenge "to draw attention to the issue of how people are living in New York City.”

After his first trip to the store, he came home with $24.44 worth of groceries: "two loaves of white bread, six ears of corn, five oranges, six bananas, three cucumbers, three cans of tuna, four packets of ramen, five boxes of Ronzoni pasta, one jar of tomato sauce, one bag of carrots (organic), one stick of butter, processed-cheese slices, one tub of pre-mixed peanut butter and jelly (Smucker’s Goober)." And how did he feel eating this haul? “It’s been terrible. I feel lousy. I’m tired. I just don’t feel like myself.”

2007_05_organic.jpgFood stamp allotments are based on the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan. For a family of two adults age 20-50, the plan allows for $74.00 per week or $320.80 per month. Rebecca of Rebecca's Pocket has decided to take this challenge to the next level -- she's trying to stick to the Thrifty Food Plan budget and still eat organically. She's been keeping track of her progress online, and her meals look a hell of a lot more nutritionally sound than Gioia's.

A quick web search brought up a number of sites offering "low-budget" recipes, but it's clear from the differences in the two diets above that it takes a lot of planning and consumer education (not to mention time) to eat a nutritionally balanced diet on such a tight budget. It's likely that most low-income New Yorkers aren't getting any education along with their food stamps.